Wound Care

Call Your Doctor If You Have

  • Increased pain
  • Drainage, redness or swelling around the incision
  • A fever over 101 degrees

How is the wound bandaged?

Immediately after surgery your wound will be covered with sterile bandages. Normally this first bandage, often referred to as the surgical dressing, will be removed the day after surgery. The surgeon or nurse will examine your wound to be sure that it looks as expected. Depending on the type of closure you have had and your surgeon’s preference, another bandage may be applied. Do not be concerned if no bandage is reapplied. Once again, your surgeon will make this determination.

How should I care for my wound?

There is very little care that needs to be given to your surgical wound. The most important aspect for the first 72 to 96 hours will be to keep the wound dry and clean. Your surgical wound will be assessed each day by your surgeon and nurses to be sure that it is progressing and that no signs of infection are present. They will alert you to any concerns that they have about your wound and give you specific instructions regarding your wound care.

Is it normal for the wound to itch?

A few days after your surgery you may notice some itching near your surgical wound. Most people say that is a sign of healing but it may also be a result of the Steri-Strips™ or other tapes that have been used. It is best to avoid scratching the wound. If it becomes too much of a problem, speak with your surgeon or nurse. They may order medications by mouth or some topical cream to help make this more tolerable.

How do I take care of my wound at home?

When you go home from the hospital you should have someone look at your wound on a daily basis. It is normal to have some fullness in your wound after spine surgery. This is a result of swelling or hematoma. A hematoma is an accumulation of blood that has occurred during and after your wound was closed. In most cases, your body will absorb this fluid with no additional concern.

If the hematoma is significant and has not begun to resolve after several days, your surgeon may want to remove the fluid by aspirating the wound. Other signs of concern will be redness or drainage from the wound. If the swelling is increasing, the wound becomes red / inflamed or you notice drainage, you should contact your surgeon or nurse for additional instructions.

When can I take a shower?

Your surgical team will make a determination about when you can take a shower. However in most cases this will be approximately 4 to 5 days after your surgery. Be sure to ask your surgeon or nurse about the timing of that first shower. Normally baths are discouraged for the first couple of weeks due to difficulty getting in and out of a bathtub, as well as avoiding soaking the wound in bath water.

Does it take a long time for the wound to heal?

Your wound will be healed within two weeks from your surgery unless there has been some reason to delay that healing. In addition people that have other medical problems such as diabetes, people who need to take daily steroids for other conditions, and those people whose immune system may be compromised, may need additional time for their wounds to completely heal. If you have questions about the time it will take for your wound to heal, discuss this with your surgeon.

Is wound care different for a child?

Children’s wounds heal very quickly and normally without problem. Preventing your child from scratching the wound or touching the wound is very important. If the child requires the use of a diaper, an additional measure to protect a surgical wound in that area is necessary. Special bandage material that forms water tight protection for the wound will be used until the wound has healed.